I Read the News Today Oh, Boy
I read the news today oh, boy…
A crowd of people turned away,
But I just had to look… John Lennon, Paul McCartney
I read the news today oh, boy. U.S. edges closer to Syria action—Kerry condemns apparent toxic gas attack as ‘moral obscenity’ and ‘cowardly crime.’ Secretary of State John Kerry said there was evidence of a chemical attack that caused “the indiscriminate slaughter of civilians in the suburbs of Damascus, undeniable and a cowardly crime.” His tone suggested that the President and foreign diplomats are nearing a decision to launch punitive attacks on Syrian military targets by using warships, submarines, and aircraft outside Syrian airspace. In response, the Syrian government has promised swift retaliation against foreign aggression in their country. And here we go again—another thankless, endless intervention that will probably not end well. They never do.In my humble opinion--and it is only my opinion, Americans who enter these countries as saviors quickly become branded invaders and occupiers. Rhetoric heats up. Lives are lost. And nothing changes. No matter how much we might wish to, we cannot democratize or save the world. In the words of the old adage, "physician, heal thyself."
I read the news today oh, boy. “Boy, 8, allegedly shoots caregiver after gaming.” An 8-year-old boy from Slaughter, Louisiana shot and killed 87-year-old Marie Smothers, possibly his grandmother, after playing the violent video game, Grand Theft Auto, Take Two. The game encourages violence and awards points to players for killing people. The boy had a long and loving relationship with the victim, and even shared the same bedroom. He initially told police that he was playing with the gun, which belonged to Mrs. Smothers, and shot her accidentally. Further investigation led authorities to believe that he intentionally shot Ms. Smothers in the back of the head while she sat in the living room watching television. The boy was released to his parents and will not face charges. Under Louisiana law, a child younger than 10 is exempt from criminal responsibility. What have we come to? A little boy engages in a violent interactive video game, internalizes what he has experienced, finds a gun, shoots his caregiver, and will not be held accountable because he did not understand the consequences of his actions. The game’s maker, Take Two, rejected any suggestion that engaging in violent video games encourages violent actions.
I read the news today oh, boy. “Hot immigration issue cools off.” The prospects for an overhaul of the nation’s immigration laws by the Republican controlled House of Representatives” are all but dead. Although advocates of reform have outnumbered opponents in many congressional districts, GOP lawmakers seem intent on returning to budget issues and a renewed effort to undo President Obama’s health care law. The immigration issue has not been addressed since 1965 when the U.S. government radically changed its immigration policy and planted the seeds for America's current demographic explosion. The change came about in part because of a demand for change and equality created by the civil rights movement. Many Republican legislators are divided over how to deal with immigration reform, especially the issue of 11 million immigrants living in the U.S. without legal status. They prefer to defer the problem until after the 2014 elections when they do not have to worry that their votes might face challenges. Some come from districts with few Latino and minority voters and do not really understand all of the issues. They are taking their time to develop views on the complex topic. Meantime, the fate of the illegal immigrants and of those seeking legal status or citizenship remains in limbo.
I read the news today oh, boy. “Chicago State student robbed, slain.” Telkia Burns, a 33-year-old student was preparing for his last year at Chicago State University. He will not enroll in the classes he had selected. He was shot and killed on August 26 during a robbery in his building. An 18-year-old gunman entered Burns’ apartment and tried to go through his pockets. When Burns fought back, the man shot him and ran off with his money and house keys. Police took the suspect into custody a short time later, although he has not yet been charged. Telkia Burns was a Navy veteran who served in Japan for three years. He was studying community health at Chicago State through a Veterans Affairs work-study program. Burns’ two sons, 7 and 8, live with their mother in Indiana. Another senseless killing. Another bright young man robbed, not just of a few possessions, but of his future and a life with his family.
I read the news today oh, boy. “Thief Snatches group’s 3-wheeled library.” A thief in Logan Square cut the lock on a tricycle and took BiblioTreka, a custom-made, teal and white bike containing a library on wheels that took books from Humboldt Park’s Read/Write Library out into the community for easy access to readers. BiblioTreka is a nonprofit organization that collects all kinds of reading materials: Chicago stories, books of poetry, magazines, and small publications. The group’s director, Nell Taylor, was devastated by the theft. She said it took everything they had just to keep it going. People are being asked to be on the lookout for for the library trike.
I read the news today oh, boy. “Cyrus’ racy dancing the talk of the VMAs.” Miley Cyrus did her best to shock the audience watching the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards show on August 25--stripping to her underwear, grinding on a foam finger, and "twerking" ( that's what they're calling whatever it was she did with the giant Disney bears). Most media reporters found her performance both sad and disgusting. One called it “…really, really disturbing.” She said that Cyrus, who is 20, is “…obviously deeply troubled, deeply disturbed, and beset with confidence issues as well as an eating disorder,” and added that the performer should not have been allowed on the stage. Another group characterized the act as “raunchy, not sexy, and no talent.” So why mention her? In the grand scheme of things, does she even deserve a mention? Well, she did make the news, though not in a good way. And she probably got what she wanted. Her act was great marketing. Her new single is now #2 on the charts. Another of her songs is #5. And the Disney bear has become a superstar. Still, I can't help but wonder, is this what young people of a certain age call entertainment? I really hope not. There are better options, probably every act of Lollapalooza, which tweens and teens watch and seem to enjoy without feeling grossed out.
So why do I keep reading the news. I guess it’s a little like watching the Cubs—which, along with my friend Phil Grinstead, I do religiously. I can’t help myself. And, I keep hoping for something better. Maybe a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Heck, I’d even settle for the rainbow.
Filed under: Living in Interesting Times